Two Welsh politicians have been on a fact-finding mission at First Milk's award-winning Haverfordwest creamery, followed by a visit to a nearby dairy farm, owned by one of First Milk's members.Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Kirsty Williams AM and Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Mick Bates AM visited the creamery to build their understanding of the business and learn more about the creamery's award-winning Pembrokeshire Cheese Company brand.
The pair also visited Pelcomb Farm in Haverfordwest, home to the Smith family, who milk 310 dairy cows on 600 acres. Brothers Michael and Peter Smith took the politicians on a tour of the farm and talked about the challenges facing dairy farmers in Wales.
Ms Williams and Mr Bates were welcomed to the Haverfordwest creamery by First Milk farmer director, Richard Twose and farmer representative, Mansel Raymond as well as site manager, Tim Whittal-Williams.
Both politicians have a keen interest in the success of the creamery, which has worked closely with the Welsh Assembly Government, most recently receiving a £1.2m grant to part –fund the installation of new whey processing equipment.
The creamery, with 67 employees, receives milk from more than 300 First Milk Welsh dairy farmers, all located within a 35-mile radius of the Merlin's Bridge site.
The politicians heard details of the success of the Pembrokeshire Cheese Company brand as well as the creamery's plans for the future, before being taken on a tour and then sampling some of the award-winning cheddar.
"The Haverfordwest creamery has an important role to play in the community and rural economy of west Wales, both as an employer and as the final destination for many Welsh dairy farmers' milk. We are delighted to welcome politicians, like Kirsty and Mick, to the site to further their understanding of the importance of a farmer-owned business like First Milk and the strong links we have within our community," explained site manager, Tim Whittal-Williams.
Kirsty Williams AM, said: "It has been very interesting to visit the creamery and the Smith family farm today and to see the production first hand. In Wales we are lucky to have some of the best dairy products in the world. Our dairy industry has faced difficult times over recent years, with too many of our dairy farmers paying the price and it is high time that the industry receives the support it so desperately needs. It is important that individuals and public sector bodies 'buy local' to help maintain our local producers and economies as well as reducing food miles and this applies to milk as much as any other product."
Added Mick Bates AM: "Over the past ten years there has been a 47% drop in the number of milk producers in Wales. This is having a knock on impact on companies such as the First Milk Haverfordwest Creamery and I am deeply concerned about the increasing loss of processing facilities across the country. Milk products contribute 32% to the gross output of Welsh agricultural production, so it is crucial that we look at ways to support and develop the dairy industry in Wales at every step of the way, from producer to consumer."
For further information, please contact Jill Coyle, First Milk communications manager on 0141 847 6884/07825 625205.
The Pembrokeshire Cheese Company
Caption: Taking a 'hands on' approach during their visit to Haverfordwest Creamery - From left to right - Tim Whittal-Williams (Haverfordwest Creamery manager); Richard Twose (First Milk Director); Mick Bates AM; Kirsty Williams AM and Mansel Raymond (First Milk farmer representative).
10 November 2009